JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) — A landmark law that took effect July 1 is allowing college athletes, for the first time, to make a profit on the use of their own name, image and likeness.
It is not just “big names” making the bucks. Athletes at East Tennessee State University are already jumping at the game-changing opportunity.
As a discus, hammer, javelin and weight thrower, Mary Brown of ETSU’s women’s track team knows the importance of timing.
“Throwing is not a popular sport, not a lot of people even know what it is. I tell people I’m a discus thrower and they look at me like, what?” said Brown on her sport.
For Brown, timing is not just to practice, but something on her side when it comes to the new NIL rules.
“The world is our oyster right now. This is so unprecedented for college athletes, really I could do anything with it,” said Brown.
When she learned the news that college athletes could now make money on their name and likeness, she was not sure if she should go for it.
“Well really, I didn’t think I could. I don’t play for a Big 10 university or anything. Nobody is gonna want to sign an ETSU thrower of all things, maybe a football player,” Brown originally thought.
Now, to her own surprise, she is one of ETSU’s very first athletes under contract.
“Athletics on top of school is a full time job. We don’t have time to get regular jobs,” said Brown.
Despite the unknowns, Brown started reaching out to local businesses to see if they were interested in partnering with her. She landed contracts with two of her favorite Johnson City restaurants – Portobello’s and Go Burrito.
She will be paid to post content on her social media pages promoting these restaurants.
“With social media, I can kind of give them an edge in a world that they aren’t in,” said Brown. “Now that I have a chance to make money off of this, even if it is just a little bit just to cover a little bit of my grocery bill, that’s huge,” said Brown.
She is an athlete in a smaller sport – supporting small businesses. It is a match she knows will make a difference, as the daughter of a small business owner herself.
“This helps the community,” Brown said. “I’m not working with Nike but I’m working with people I know and I trust and I enjoy.”
She hopes to inspire other athletes in lesser-known sports, especially females, to seize every opportunity.
“We all can’t be Trevor Lawrence, you know? I think showing that I, someone in a not-popular sport, a female, someone who goes to a smaller division one, the fact that I can still get a piece of this pie? You just work hard. That’s all it is. If you work hard you can do just about anything,” said Brown.